Charlotte Street Foundation identifies the needs and fuels the evolution of an ever-changing multidisciplinary arts ecosystem, acting as its primary provocateur. We cultivate the contemporary, the exceptional, and the unexpected in the practice of artists working in and engaging with the Kansas City Art Community
On Thursday, August 13, the third exhibition in the Charlotte Street Studio Residency Visiting Curator Series, Aggregate: Structure and Space, opens at Paragraph Gallery. The exhibition features Hannah Carr, Miranda Clark, Henry Fording Eddins, Sarah Hearn, Hellerud, Adriane Herman, Hunter Long, Carie Musick, Mel Neet, Lucas Wetzel, and Annie Woodfill.
Aggregate: Structure and Space is curated by Eric and Erin Dodson of Kiosk Gallery, who describe the show’s theme as one of “exploring the relationship between forms and the voids they inhabit or contain.” In this interview with resident writer Lucas Wetzel, Eric and Erin discuss the relocation of Kiosk Gallery to Columbus Park, their approach to curating, and working with the studio residents to put together the exhibition.
Where are you both from, and what was your first involvement with the arts in Kansas City?
KG: (Erin) I grew up in Lee’s Summit, southeast of KC. My dad is an artist, and worked at Hallmark the whole time I was growing up. He really encouraged my creative tendencies as a kid. When I was in high school in the late 90s, I had a great art teacher who brought the whole class down to the Crossroads to see the galleries – I remember thinking “Dolphin” was a funny name for a gallery. After coming home from college, I started trying to get involved in the art world in KC more, but it was a bit of a slow start. When I met Eric, it helped having someone else on my team as we tried to figure it all out.
(Eric) I am from the Wichita, KS area. I spent time in Kansas City, Chicago, and Arkansas before settling down again in KC. My first experiences with the art scene in KC back in the mid-late ’90s left much to be desired. Honestly, the particular young artists I met at that time were very off-putting, and trying to find opportunities as an outsider seemed daunting. Eventually, after I returned to KC many years later, Erin and I found opportunities to publicly engage our own artistic practices in a much more welcoming environment with a much more generous community. This led to an opportunity to open our first gallery space, Kiosk Gallery.
What kind of artwork do each of you do, and where are some recent exhibits you’ve taken part in?
KG: (Erin) I make photographs, and for the last few years I’ve been focused on mostly un-peopled landscapes in the suburbs of KC and beyond. In August Eric and I had a show of our work together at The Gallery at Pioneer Bluffs in Matfield Green, KS – a great place in the Flint Hills. The show, Proximal Topologies, highlights the similarities in some of our respective work – a focus on texture and surface. We plan to bring that show to the West Patrons’ Gallery at Shawnee Mission West in October, and give a talk for some of the students there.
(Eric) My primary focus is assemblage, using found objects and materials in conjunction with painting techniques. Wichita artist, Marc Bosworth, and I put together a two-person show, Tactile Diagrams, which initially opened at Kiosk in late 2013. Then, last summer, we were able to take that show on the road, exhibiting at Bob Schwan Studios in Wichita, KS.
What inspired you to open the initial Kiosk Gallery space?
KG: The inspiration came from the room itself – we really had not been planning to open a gallery. But our friend Mike Moreno was putting on art shows in the back of Open Fire Pizza at 39th and Broadway, and we noticed a small office-sized room that was not being used. So we put up some walls and lights, and started having shows every 3rd Friday. We found it was a great way to meet other artists and get conversations going.
Now that you’ve relocated to a larger, freestanding space in Columbus Park, what will you be able to do differently?
KG: We always took Kiosk seriously, even when it was just a small, white room behind a pizza restaurant. But having a storefront in a creative neighborhood is a huge benefit for the gallery – everyone in Columbus Park has been so supportive, getting involved and collaborating with us, and there is a lot going on down the hill in the East Bottoms too. That is what we wanted most, to be able to interact with our neighborhood. We still have a small gallery in the front for monthly curated shows, but we have additional display space in the back, storage and a small office, and room for other events and talks.
Can you tell me about the process of putting together the group show at Paragraph? Did you come up with the theme and find artists whose work would fit, or did the idea arise from observing and making studio visits?
KG: We began the process by looking at the work the artists have online, and that’s where the theme started to develop. Cory Imig and Pat Alexander led us through a marathon studio visit with all the residents, and we got a chance to see what they’ve been working on most recently, so we took photos and made notes about work in progress. It helped to meet the artists in person, to be able to get to know them a bit and see how their ideas develop.
What kinds of things do you look for during a studio visit or when scheduling a show?
KG: On one level, the art speaks for itself, and talent, innovation, and great images are what matter most. However, we think professionalism shows that you care about your work, and meeting commitments and deadlines show that you respect people’s time. So much of putting together an art show is logistics – so being easy to work with goes a long way!
How would you describe your approach to curating? Do you like to have an influence during the artistic process, or do you prefer to step back and focus more on the presentation?
KG: At Kiosk, we are often approached by artists with mostly completed bodies of work that they are ready to show, or who have rather well-developed ideas about what they’d like to do. But as outsiders we may be able to offer the artist a perspective that puts their work in a context they hadn’t thought of, or we can draw connections between the works that the artist may not see because they are so close to it. We can pick out threads in the work that connect to the history of art, literature, science and technology, spirituality – or to what we see happening in other studios. Our main goal is to facilitate presentation and connect artists, and we take a pretty light-handed approach to curatorial practice, but we can help by pointing out the significance of what is already there.
The Charlotte Street Studio Residency program includes composers, dancers and writers as well as visual artists. How did you incorporate these different disciplines into one show?
KG: The exhibition at Paragraph features five of the studio resident artists. In the next room at Project Space, Annie Woodfill plans to create an installation that includes a music performance by one of the resident musicians, Henry Fording Eddins, via Skype on the opening night. Our supplemental publication “Suggested Volume” contains images by the artists; essays, poetry, and short stories by some of the resident writers; and a graphic composition by resident composer/musician Hunter Long of Black House Collective.
What does the title ‘Suggested Volume’ refer to?
KG: We liked that title because it points to a few different aspects of the show – in one way it refers to how some of the artists have used their materials to suggest volume or space. In the context of music, the suggested volume refers to loudness and quietness. And in the context of writing, the suggested volume is our booklet – the works within complement the show really well.
You’ve made booklets in the past presenting interviews and images about Kiosk shows, and you put together a special publication for the Paragraph Show. How can a well-designed print publication enhance the viewer’s experience of a gallery show?
KG: (Erin) I think often the publication actually helps after the viewer has left the show – It’s great to have something to take away and digest later, if like me, they process information over time and out of the chaos of an opening reception. It’s an intorvert’s solution! When there are some images and a bit of writing from the artist and/or the gallery it can be a great way to make an impression on viewers so they remember your work, and a good promotional tool to show other galleries what you’ve done so far. I may refer back to old price lists and gallery maps when I’m trying to remember an artist I saw somewhere.
What is the most unusual show you have curated, or strangest experience you have had while working on a show?
KG: We thought about this, and REALLY had a good laugh thinking about some of the more bizarre situations we’ve been in because of the gallery, but it’s not like us to divulge too much! This business can be messy – working with artists, you are often put in the middle of their lives and romances and homes and work spaces for a time. We are so thankful and honored that people have shared so much with us, and the relationships that come from working closely together are so rewarding.
Outside of the Paragraph show, do you foresee any further collaborations with Charlotte Street or CSF Residency artists?
KG: We have at least 3 shows tentatively lined up at Kiosk with artists we’ve met by doing this visiting curator project with Charlotte Street Foundation. And we have enjoyed working with Charlotte Street – by getting involved, it’s easy to see how much love and support there is for these artists and the creative community in Kansas City. We’d be thrilled to do more with the organization.
If each of you could pick any place in the world to curate/host a salon-style art show, where would it be and what would it include?
KG: (Erin) I wouldn’t mind spending a year or so in Tokyo putting together a big show of contemporary Japanese photographers!
(Eric) I would like to time-travel so I could participate in the 1913 Armory Show!
An opening reception for Aggregate: Structure and Space will be held Thursday, August 13th, 5:00-8:00 pm at Paragraph Gallery (on 12th St. between Walnut and Main), and the show runs through September 26th, open Fridays and Saturdays 12-5pm. The artists featured in the show will give an informal walk-through talk on September 26th at 3pm, on the show’s final day.